When are Tibetan organizations going to wake up from their love affair with so-called Tibet experts, upon whom they regularly heap deferential praise? Sure it’s a kindness and courtesy to acknowledge those who have supported or contributed towards Tibet’s cause, however in the desire to maintain positive relations with such individuals there has been a tendency to ignore or deny some matters of concern.
This has been over-shadowing the Tibetan movement for some time, in which specific issues are either not reported or distorted. Most recently concerns were raised about an English organization called ‘Free Tibet’ which, it was claimed, was run by a handful of careerists with little knowledge on Tibet. Their reportage was forcefully challenged by a Tibetan blogger (a post curiously now removed from the internet), and in a damning article by a former staff member. Both these individuals raised some very serious questions that demanded investigation and exposure, yet in a disappointing, though predictable response, that organization received uncritical support from the Tibetan Administration. Some have speculated if pressure from that body had resulted in the swift and unexplained removal of the article, whatever the facts its presence generated controversy and may have contributed to recent resignation of that group’s Director.
The broader concerns however remain unaddressed in that Tibet and it’s struggle continues to suffer from misrepresentation and distortion by those who seem otherwise dedicated and sincere supporters. This issue received very interesting discussion on the recommended blog Shadow Tibet by Jamyang Norbu who exposed with his usual intelligence what he described as ‘Barefoot Experts’ one name that featured was Mr. Robert Barnett. Described by the Voice of Tibet as a ‘renowned Tibetologist’ he is the Director of the Tibet Institute of Columbia University.
“Robert, said he looked forward to the new leaders to try a softer approach, because the current policy is detrimental to China’s image abroad, undermines the stability of the domestic. But he also said that it will face huge internal resistance from hardliners bureaucracy from making any changes largely just like symbolic outsiders almost imperceptible.”
Why is the Voice Of Tibet not recognizing that here Mr. Barnett’s main focus of concern appears to be for the public relations image of China’s regime. His anxieties occupied, not with the harrowing results of China’s tyranny against Tibetans, but in securing ‘domestic stability’, a phrase that concedes Tibet as part of China and engineered in the laboratories of China’s propaganda department.
Some would argue he is merely being the nuanced and objective academic, others may counter that he again has revealed a bias towards China. What is clear is that his comments often feature a unsettling chemistry in which just enough is offered to suggest the appearance of balance and impartiality. Yet never sufficient to counter the impression that he is operating according to a preconceived ideology, which is not only intolerant of the concept of Tibetan independence, but consign the people of Tibet to a merciless destiny under Communist China. Now why is that not a matter of concern to the Voice Of Tibet?